Friday, November 25, 2005

Belfast Retrospective


David Cation
Portaits 1994 - 2004
SAFEHOUSE ARTSPACE GALLERY
David Cation's eye-catching exhibition is his first in Ireland. He tell Brian Campbell about his unique take on the fragility of the hunan condition... An exhibition titled Portraits does't sound like the most original works you might chance upon, but David Cation's Portraits 1994 - 2004 will take you by surprise.The portraits in question are portraits of skulls, astonishing in that such bold and vivid colours are used in subject matter which couldn't be starker.There's no doubting the Canadian is a true talent and his show at Belfast's Safehouse Arts Space - his first in Ireland - will surely be the first of many on European shores.A visiting artist and lecturer all over his native Canada, Cation has also exhibited in museums and galleries from New York to San Francisco to Toronto and has work in seversl public and private Canadian collections.He was recently involved with an exhibition at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences alongside Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat.As can be seen by his Skull paintings - described by one critic as -the morbid crania are painted like some caustic advertisement for the Gap -. he does more than strip down his subjects and his fascination with the fragiltiy of the human condition hasbeen hieghtened in recent years. "Skulls are portraits too. I whittled it down from painting figures to portraits and then just removed more layers, he says.A lot of my friends have died. I have lost alot of my friends in the last ten years. Even Zoe, my former wife died. (The image pictured, is one of him and his wife.)
As for the use of such bold colours in the portraits, say strives to create contast in his work. "Its a classic elment of design. Portraits of skulls say death, but what is death? It is a door closing . And what happens when cllose a door, You"re in another room. It├Ęs not a bad thing: the same way that life is not a good thing. It just is. It's another thing."Still on the subject of mortality, Cation has worked alot with street kids in his native Ottawa in a bid to tackle teenage suicide.It's the number one killer of teenagers: suicide. The particular problem is that issues like that are ignored so hard in Ottawa, because it's the nation's capital.."I met a group of street kids and they'd come to the studio every Tuesday and I'd do portraiture."Ten years later, I still work with some of those kids. Some have died, but some have gone on to do OK.""You pull them out of the alleys and give them a paintbrush. It's my way of giving something back to society.""It's helping them learn about art and I get a little bit of help too."However, Cation hints that his stint in Europe may be permanent, as he feels he has done all he can in Canada."I've no reason to be there. No reason whatsoever. I had everything Ottawa had to offer and I gave it everything I have. There's nothing else there, so why stay? You'd just get frustrated.""I say that if you see yourself on cover of the local arts paper, you have to leave town, unfortunatley '"Most of the work I did there in the last two years was sets for theatre, nightclub sets, event design, parties and I'm starting to move more into museum work and away from commercial work."In previous paintings, Cation dealt with religious iconography, while his next works will be based on words. He said he would like to organise a festival/art party in Europe called The Dark Carnival - as he did in Canada.And if he revels in painting the darker side of life, it's no surprise that he gets some interesting people admiring his work:"Ozzy Osbourne even contacted us, because during his last Canadian tour he was in Quebec City and my show caught his eye."

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